Despite maternal health problems being dangerously widespread in eastern Myanmar, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have revealed by way of their series of surveys that most of these cases go largely unreported.
The surveys revealed that more than 88 percent of women had a home delivery during their last pregnancy, and that displaced women were more than five times as likely to receive no antenatal care.
Reported in the journal PLoS Medicine, the findings also suggest that human rights violations like displacement and forced labor were also widespread.
The researchers said that such problems, in turn, affected access to maternal health care.
"Health indicators are poor and human rights violations are widespread in eastern Burma. In conflict-affected regions of Burma, research indicates that infant and child mortality rates are higher than other areas due to widespread exposure to gross human rights violations," said Dr. Luke Mullany, lead author of the study and assistant professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of International Health.
The researchers revealed that 60 percent of the women surveyed expressed an unmet need for modern contraceptives, while nearly 95 percent revealed that they had given birth without the assistance of a skilled attendant or someone with labor and delivery training.
They also said that many women displayed signs of poor nutrition, and that very few received vital iron supplements or utilized insecticide-treated bed nets.
Over 50 percent of the women surveyed were found to be anemic, according to the researchers, and more than seven percent tested positive for the malaria parasite.
The two-stage cluster sampling surveys among reproductive-aged women, 15 to 45 years old, were conducted between September 2006 and January 2007 in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni communities in eastern Myanmar.
For carrying out the study, the researchers took the aid of trained survey workers who spoke the local language, and were known in the community.
"The indicators and coverage estimates provided here are strikingly worse than the already low national estimates for Burma that have been provided by various institutional reports," said Dr. Chris Beyrer, senior author of the study and professor with the Bloomberg School's Department of Epidemiology.
"Increased access to antenatal, labor delivery and newborn care services in eastern Burma is essential to improve the overall health status of these vulnerable populations. In addition, considerable political, financial and human resources are necessary to improve access to care. There needs to be emphasis on maternal and more comprehensively, reproductive health services in health programs targeting these communities," added Beyrer.